Gerda Lerner: "In my courses, the teachers told me about a world in which ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn’t exist. I asked myself how this checked against my own life experience. ‘This is garbage; this is not the world in which I have lived,’ I said."
January 4, 2013 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Feminist historian Gerda Lerner has passed away at 92. An original member of the National Organization for Women, Lerner was a pioneer in the field of women's history, teaching what is thought to be the first women’s history course in the world and later establishing the first women's history graduate program in the United States. She led a fascinating life.

Born in Austria, she was imprisoned by the Nazis as a young woman and immigrated to the United States in 1939. Her PhD dissertation from Columbia became her first published book, The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina: Pioneers for Women's Rights and Abolition. Other works include Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey,The Creation of Patriarchy, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-seventy and Black Women in America: A Documentary History. Along with the screenplay to the movie, Black Like Me, Lerner also wrote her own political autobiograpy, Fireweed.

Here are some quotes and interviews that may provide some insight into this remarkable figure.
posted by Morrigan (17 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
One of the most important historians of....well, for a really long time. I was saddened to hear of her death, and grateful that her body of work survives and is carried on by other historians. Just by doing the research and writing she did, she changed history.

posted by rtha at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:47 PM on January 4, 2013

posted by ruhroh at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2013

I feel like there is a great travesty in Women's History being so new a field that a pioneer of it was still alive.


posted by Twain Device at 1:54 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

What a powerful and important force she was. She lived a good long life, but she still died too soon, dammit.

posted by languagehat at 3:36 PM on January 4, 2013

Lerner died on the eve of the American Historical Association's annual meeting in New Orleans. I have several friends and colleagues down there who assure me that she has been on so many people's minds. The theme of this year's meeting is "Lives, Places, Stories" -- "inviting reflections on lived experience and how humans discuss lived experience" -- which could not be a more appropriate link to Lerner's life.
posted by Madamina at 4:50 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

She will be so missed. A real inspiration.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:21 PM on January 4, 2013

posted by Sara C. at 5:41 PM on January 4, 2013

What a hero & inspiration!
posted by smirkette at 5:42 PM on January 4, 2013

posted by gingerbeer at 7:01 PM on January 4, 2013

Her university obituary (complete with a recent clip of her speaking and tribute from Gloria Steinem) is here.

In the interest of disclosure: I wrote it.
posted by sheena is a sock puppet at 7:35 PM on January 4, 2013


Never took a class with Dr. Lerner, but did meet her and run into her now and again when I was at college and taking a Women's Studies course with another professor. I'm honored to have had the chance to know her even slightly.
posted by zorseshoes at 9:14 PM on January 4, 2013


She should be a household name.
posted by desuetude at 9:44 PM on January 4, 2013

I used some of her texts (mostly the primary source compilations) in history classes in college and when I was catching back up on American history for a teaching certificate. I loved The Creation of Patriarchy. Her work was amazing.

posted by immlass at 12:34 AM on January 5, 2013

posted by quazichimp at 3:07 AM on January 5, 2013

(Nice work, Sheena.)
I count myself lucky that I came to Madison while she was around a lot and got to hear her speak a couple of times.
posted by Mngo at 9:19 AM on January 5, 2013

posted by dis_integration at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2013

« Older TIRED OF BRAND X?   |   Can a band be any more Metal than this? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments